Speaking today at the Conservative Party Conference, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP said:
It is always a delight to be working with our yellow chums inside Whitehall, but it’s great to be back at a Conservative Party conference.
Conservatives share common beliefs – a smaller state, lower taxes, trusting the people and championing hardworking families.
After three years in government, it is easy to forget the toxic legacy that Labour left behind.
They mortgaged away our future.
Labour allowed the benefits bill to double, creating a something-for-nothing culture.
We have been cleaning up Labour’s mess ever since.
But imagine if the last three years had not happened, and David Cameron had not walked through the doors of Downing Street.
Imagine a parallel universe of a Lib-Lab Government clinging to power today.
Labour would have quickly lost the confidence of the markets for failing to tackle the deficit.
Mortgage rates would have soared, and after that, taxes too.
The Chancellor, Ed Balls, would be extending his so-called “mansion tax” to ordinary family homes.
Hitting your garden, your patio and your home improvements with soaring council tax.
The Business Secretary – Unite’s Baron McCluskey of Mersey Docks – would be abolishing Margaret Thatcher’s trade union reforms and turning the clock back to the 1970s.
The Deputy Prime Minister, the ever-cheerful Vince Cable, would still be urging an economic Plan B.
The Equalities Minister, Harriet Harman would be making welfare benefits a Human Right, assisted by her new human rights czar from the Brazilian Workers Party.
And the Home Secretary, Chris Huhne, the newly-elevated Lord Huhne of Wormwood Scrubs, would be championing that great Liberal Democrat cause:
Votes for prisoners!
And in the dark, over-cast offices of Downing Street, candles would flicker during the 3-day-week electricity blackout
The walls battle-scarred by the years of flying Nokias and smashed keyboards,
A dour Scotsman would be quietly cursing Tony Blair for his legacy of boom and bust.
To his left, Damian McBride, his spin doctor, whispering sweet poisons into his ear.
To his far left, Ed Miliband, his policy wonk, urging higher taxes, price controls and land grabs.
In reality, Gordon may be absent. But they are the same old Labour Party.
A vote for Labour still means
· More spending
· More borrowing
· More debt
· More taxes
· And a return to the culture of spin.
I don’t know if you’ve been reading the McBride memoirs.
It’s twenty quid for a signed copy. The unsigned ones are even more expensive
So let me give you the condensed version.
· Yes – there is a Nasty Party.
· And it’s called the Labour Party!
At the next election, there will be a clear choice.
Between a modern Conservative Party
Or back to the future with Red Ed.
Look at the records of both parties.
Under the Labour Government, council tax more than doubled.
We have worked with councils to freeze it, cutting bills in real terms.
Under Labour, house building fell to the lowest rate since the 1920s.
Under Conservatives, house building and first time buyers are back at their highest rate since Labour’s crash, thanks to schemes like Help to Buy.
The economy is turning the corner.
We have built over one-hundred-and-fifty thousand new affordable homes since the election, with more to come.
And we are supporting new family-friendly tenancies in the private rented sector.
Labour build nothing but resentment.
Take Ed Miliband’s latest plan? To confiscate private land and build over the Green Belt.
Resurrected eco towns: the zombie policy that will not die.
It’s the same old Labour.
Hardworking people are still paying the price for Labour.
John Prescott told councils to hike up parking charges, cut the number of parking spaces and use parking fines to punish motorists.
It’s no wonder that nine million parking fines are now issued every year.
Shoppers drive to out-of-town superstores or just shop online, rather than face the high street.
So we will make it easier for hardworking people to pop into the local shop to buy a newspaper or a pint of milk.
We will empower local residents to challenge the excessive yellow lines and unreasonable fines.
We will switch off the parking ‘cash cameras’ and spy cars.
We are helping families with the cost of living, and supporting local shops.
But it’s not only Labour that wastes taxpayers’ money and interferes in people’s lives.
Increasingly the EU interferes in local communities.
Take the EU programme, INTERREG. You have probably never heard of it.
It replaces our national boundaries with pan-European regions.
Such as the “TransManche” –merging the southern counties of England with the north of France.
Last week, at a road show at the Jules Verne Circus in France, the Eurocrats celebrated this region.
Over a hundred million pounds of taxpayers’ money has been wasted on vanity projects.
And what gifts the new citizens of TransManche have received.
A new Atlas, renaming the English Channel. It’s now called “Le Pond”. “Franco-British master-classes” in circus training
Giant puppets and cross-border contemporary dance.
– And to top the lot, a bold piece of 21st Century transport infrastructure.
The Cross-Channel Cycle Lane.
I struggle to see how Labour Ministers ever thought this was a good idea.
Mind you, Tony Blair did think he could walk on water.
These Euro projects are a symptom of a wider problem.
In quangos and town halls across the land, public sector bureaucrats think ‘Euro funding’ is somehow ‘free money’.
Every cent of EU grant we get back was British taxpayers’ money in the first place.
But there are strings attached.
To get the money, grant recipients must praise the European Union.
If they don’t, they are punished with fines.
Even in this great city of Manchester, a grave injustice has been committed.
Down the road is the People’s History Museum.
The home of the Labour’ Party Archives,
Containing papers from Kier Hardy, and a Frederick Pickles from Bradford – one of the earliest members of the Labour Party a century ago.
A seven thousand pound fine.
An outrage. But not a peep from the Labour Party.
Where was Peter Mandelson when Labour needed him?
But now the Commission wants to go further.
Using Lisbon Treaty powers, it wants councils to stamp the EU flag on birth, marriage and death certificates.
It’s optional say the Commission.
We’ve heard that one before. Just look at the EU flag on your driving licence.
Will branding Britons from cradle to grave with EU flags drive economic growth?
Will fining local community groups help balance the EU budget?
Will barmy cycle lanes and the EU’s flying circus make us love Brussels more?
Brussels says it needs ‘more Europe’ to save the Euro.
As Ronald Reagan might have said …
– More EU government is not the solution to our problems.
– The EU is the problem.
As David Cameron has said, it’s time to return powers to Britain and to let the people decide.
Like Labour, the EU doesn’t care about wasting taxpayers’ money.
But this Government has led from the front in the war on waste.
In my department, we've cut our administration by a cool FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-TWO MILLION POUNDS, from savings big and small.
Our corporate credit card spending fell by three-quarters after we published every transaction online.
We’ve cut back the consultants, the temps, the marketing budget.
We’ve stopped translating documents into foreign languages.
And shortly, to save NINE MILLION POUNDS A YEAR, my whole department is going to bunk in with Theresa at the Home Office.
Conservative councils have also led the way in producing quality services at a much lower price.
Sharing back-offices, better procurement and more joint working.
But Labour councils continue to burn money – from their union pilgrims to their Town Hall Pravdas.
Their councils make lazy choices – a “bleeding stump” strategy of axing the frontline, all so they can wave the red flag.
Let one Labour authority speak for them all – Newham.
This council, in one of the most deprived parts of our capital, has spent over one-hundred million pounds on a luxury headquarters, including thousands on designer light fittings.
Three years on, it’s moving back to its old building. All that money wasted.
By an historic accident, the council’s housing arm – Newham Homes – has houses in my constituency in Essex.
Former Right to Buy tenants who bought their own home are being hit with leasehold repair charges of up to fifty thousand pounds.
The local Conservative council charges a tenth of that for the same sort of maintenance.
That's where I met Florence Bourne.
Florrie was a woman in her nineties, full of energy, full of fun and full of the joy of life that belied her years.
She was proud to have brought up a happy family.
When Mrs Thatcher gave her a chance she bought her own 2 bedroom flat over the top of the local parade of shops,
Then Newham gave her a fifty thousand pound bill.
A crushing sum for a proud woman who had never been in debt before.
Right across the estate former tenants were billed for work that was not done, work that was poorly done, work that was overpriced.
Most shocking of all work that was not necessary, including a replacement roof she didn’t need.
We went to the Valuation Tribunal, and eventually they over-turned the bill.
But too late for Florrie.
The last time I saw her she looked every one of her ninety-three years, weighed down by the drilling, the banging, the dust, the mess, but above all the debt and the worry.
She died a couple of weeks later still believing she owed fifty thousand pounds.
Ninety-three is a good age, but I'm convinced she had a few more good years in her and I blame Newham for its lack of care.
Newham: A council more concerned about the roof over its head rather than the roof over an elderly woman.
This case highlights the scandal of leaseholders being ripped off by inefficient municipal landlords who kick those who took up the Right to Buy.
We need to increase protection for former Right to Buy leaseholders like Florrie.
But this story shows the true face of Labour when in power, locally and nationally.
In May’s local elections, don’t let Labour do to your council what they did to our country.
Conservatives will always be on the side of those who work hard and do the right thing.
We trust the people.
We believe in a smaller state.
We stand up for the ordinary guy in the face of state bureaucracy.
And we believe in cutting taxes and charges, helping hardworking people with the cost of living.
We promised change.
We’ve delivered change.
Conservative change for the better.